THE ROBOT IS A SCAMP
What goes up must come down — unless it can perch on something first. Quadrotors have limited endurance because of restrictions on battery capacity and the physics of
small-scale flight, but perching can allow them to operate for hours (or even days) gathering
data or performing communication tasks while stationary. Perching can be tricky, however,
because the odds of a drone landing exactly in the right place are low. Adding the ability to
climb would allow a drone to reposition itself more accurately, with the added bonus that it
works if it’s too windy for flight.
Enter Morgan Pope — a Ph.D student investigating robots that live at the boundary of
airborne and surface locomotion at Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab.
He’s the lead author on a paper about SCAMP: Stanford Climbing and Aerial Maneuvering
According to Pope, folks at Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab
saw a chance to combine their experience in perching and climbing with a new robot capable
of multi-modal operation in unstructured outdoor environments. The result was a robot
SCAMP is the first robot to combine flying, perching with passive attachment technology,
and climbing. It can also recover from climbing failures, as well as take off when it’s ready to
fly again. It does all of this outdoors using only onboard sensing and computation, leveraging
lessons from previous climbing robots, the Lab’s recent work in perching, and mother nature.
For a ton more details on this technology, go to
TOTS and TEGA = MUY
MIT’s Personal Robotics Group — led by Professor Cynthia Breazeal, who is also
founder of the social robot startup, Jibo —
has built an amazing collection of smart, cute,
and squishy creatures, and now they have a
new one. Their latest squishy social robot
that MIT has been testing out is named Tega,
and it’s already gotten to work, teaching
Spanish to preschoolers.
MIT started working on Tega a year or
two ago as an optimized and more robust version of Dragonbot that was more practical to use unsupervised
with kids. Tega retains Dragonbot’s Android phonebrain, with a more Tofu-like body that can squash and stretch.
The robot has five degrees of freedom, including head up/down, waist-tilt left/right, waist-lean forward/back, full-body up/down, and full-body left/right. Through skilled and creative animations (programmed by Fardad Faridi,
who’s now working on Jibo), Tega can display a wide variety of social emotions,
Tega is specifically designed to be able to work with kids for extended periods. It’s much more robust than
MIT’s earlier social robots, and it’s being aggressively play-tested by any children that can get their hands on it.
Tega can run autonomously for hours at a time, using an accompanying tablet app to help it interact more
directly with users. The kids mostly interact with a toucan character on the tablet, while Tega provides expressive
feedback, helping them learn new words in Spanish.
14 SERVO 05.2016